08 August 2022

Video completed: The solid Slav Defence

I recently completed the FritzTrainer "The solid Slav Defence" by GM Nicholas Pert. It provides a total repertoire for Black against the Queen's Gambit; you can see the summary of the main variations below. GM Pert as part of the introduction shares how he started playing the Slav shortly before gaining the GM title. He used to play the Dutch, he narrates, but was struggling with it against the stronger GMs. He now plays the Slav as main weapon - not just to draw, but to go for the win. As a result, he presents attacking plans for Black in most of the variations, rather than drawish lines. The idea is to get equal, even if sometimes messy positions, but aiming for chances to play for a win. This includes in the Exchange Slav, which has a very drawish reputation, but turns out to have some surprising resources for Black.

Summary of major variations covered:

A couple of things to highlight on the repertoire choices:

  • The central part of the repertoire is the Classical Slav with 4...dxc4 (not 4....a6, ...g6, ...e6 etc.) 5. a4 Bf5; the most theoretical content is in the line with 6. Ne5. 
  • In the Slow Slav (4. e3), Pert chooses the classic treatment with ...Bf5 instead of ...Bg4. 
  • With the 3. Nc3 line, ...Nf6 is selected (in contrast to IM Andrew Martin's "Sharp Slav" with ...dxc4). However, the main line in the variation involves a modern Black gambit, so it's certainly not boring.

Some general commentary and observations:

  • In addition to the games presented in each line, which include variation notes that go beyond the video narrative, a model games (100) database is included. This is a sign of a serious product that guides you in further research and study, not just presenting a canned repertoire. GM Pert is also candid about the need to do further study on your own, especially when there are messy positions like those in the main line after 6. Ne5.
  • Included are a number of GM Pert's own games, which allows for better explanations of the thinking and decision process involved. This is especially true because he has played both sides of the opening. As well as top-level GM clashes, games presented include wins against lower-level opponents, which is important to show how to exploit mistakes - not just always showing the "theoretical best" play.
  • In addition to his repertoire choices, Pert highlights some other playable lines for Black that can be investigated, for example 8...O-O instead of ...Nbd7 (his repertoire) in the old main line Slav (with 6. e3). He also explains the benefits of his chosen repertoire line, which by postponing castling allows for greater flexibility in response to some of White's standard ideas, for example if White goes Nxg6 followed by ...hxg6, thereby opening up the h-file for Black's (uncastled) rook.
  • GM Pert usefully highlights the tradeoffs involved in his repertoire choices and the ideas and plans in the positions. Logical mini-plans for piece development are consistent and knowing the usual best squares and typical maneuvers for a piece goes a long way towards achieving a true understanding of the opening and being able to give yourself a good position in practice.
  • Similarly, it's useful to have him explain why some seemingly attractive lines aren't played, for either tactical or positional reasons. This is very helpful for comprehending the position at a deeper level, and provides the general benefit of being exposed to new and different ideas in chess.
  • GM Pert's explanations come from personal familiarity, study and use of the opening in tournament play over-the-board. This gives the product a certain depth and foundation of practical knowledge that I think is lacking in most theoretical opening treatments. For example, this is a contrast with GM Erwin L'Ami's Stonewall Dutch FritzTrainer - it's a top-level product, but he doesn't actually play the defense as Black, so there's a different, more detatched and theoretical feel to it.
  • The "Test Questions" at the end run through various middlegame positions from different games/variations, which is a great way to see how the typical setups and plans work, along with explanations given for why GM Pert evaluates different continuations the way he does. It also reinforces the tactical options available in certain lines.
  • There are relatively few negatives to report, mainly the occasional (normal) verbal slip in saying an incorrect square or move during the narration, although the board shown is correct, and a few on-the-fly corrections made when presenting the game lines.
Although I don't necessarily plan on adopting all of GM Pert's recommended repertoire lines, I've been playing the Slav since the beginning of my chess career, and found this to be a new and valuable resource on the opening, as well as an excellent product for encouraging general chess improvement.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this insightful and detailed review.


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